If ever there was an argument to be made for the fraternal connection between heavy metal and the blues, “Danzig III: How the Gods Kill,” is the bedrock of that argument. A blues masterpiece at its heart, “Danzig III” is an old-school romp through Black Sabbath’s graveyard.
Now, I know what you’re saying. Danzig could hardly be called “forgotten.” I realize that he is one of the torchbearers for his era of metal, and a grand figure in the history of both heavy metal and punk. His demonic skull symbol is one of the most recognizable symbols of the genre outside of the horns. Still, when in conversation, people are quick to mention “Static Age,” or “Danzig (1,)” but rarely does “Danzig III” come up.
One of the cornerstones of this album has nothing to do with Danzig himself. Rather, it is the stylized, partially refined but ultimately dirty guitar playing of John Christ which separated this album from so many of its time. A man to challenge Zakk Wylde in his own era, John Christ himself is a forgotten classic, one of the unsung heroes of the 1990’s, when metal was building the second chapter of its legacy.
John Christ's signature high-flying guitar playing soars over the top of deep blues dirges on nearly every track. Surrounded by Misfits alums Eerie Von and Chuck Biscuits, Danzig produced his finest effort to date.
Even the cover art of this album screams metal. It's a mottled collage of demonic serpent imagery and not so subtle sexual innuendo. Best of all, it had a gatefold that would terrorize your parents if they saw it on your wall. While perhaps not as iconic or simply stated as the demon skull, the cover for "Danzig III" is still one for the ages.
After the success of "Danzig" and "Danzig II," anticipation of this album from 1992 ran high among metal fans. One of my Agents In The Field who is a little more senior than me, described to me how you bought the tape (yes, tape,) nearly made your fingers bleed trying to unwrap it too fast, jammed it into your car's stereo, and waited. And waited. And waited. Sitting impatiently, waiting for the interminable length of leader tape to roll past the heads (kids, if you don't know what leader tape is, ask your parents.) You just kept turning up your stereo, not wanting to the miss the first strains of music to come. Then, your windows suddenly reverberated at the drums led the way into "Godless."
"Godless" sets the pace for the entire experience to come, as it opens and then quiets into a sparse, plodding melody while Danzig chants a few lines. Soon enough though, it opens back into space, and Danzig's tortured but strong vocals carry over the blues riffs of Eerie Von and John Christ.
Part of the signature of "Danzig III" is the unrestrained quality of Danzig's voice. He is unreserved on this album, coupling his emotions with unbridled passion. For a little guy, Danzig has always been possessed of an ability to be heard. His anguished but powerful blues screaming throughout this album, be it "Godless," "Bodies," or "Heart of the Devil," is not to be denied.
Soaked with swamp blues and baptized in fire, "Danzig III: How the Gods Kill," never lets up, never relents. It is one down and dirty metal dirge after another, ranging from the comparatively polished "Dirty Black Summer," to the raw and unrefined "Left Hand Black." While the band never pushes the musical envelope for speed or craft, they are playing music that is infectious. The undeniable rhythms make for perfect head-banging fodder, and Danzig's vocal strength trades off with John Christ's screaming guitar tactics.
I don't care what type of metal you're into. You owe it to yourself to find and listen to this album. In an era when Metallica was trying to decide who they wanted to be, Anthrax was getting used to a new singer, and Nirvana was an unstoppable tidal wave, Danzig crafted a masterpiece by going back in time and channeling the great blues metal of old. Despite lacking an iconic single like "Am I Demon" or "Mother," "Danzig III: How the Gods Kill," tops all previous or subsequent Danzig efforts.
Find it. Own it. Listen to it.